Selecting and Buying Paint and Stain

Shell Busey
September 3, 2013


You can't buy oil-based paints in Canada anymore, except for some specialty products like floor enamels and rust prevention treatments.

In 2010 the Government of Canada introduced regulations aimed at protecting the environment and the health of Canadians from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in oil-based paints, varnishes and wood stains. VOCs in oil-based paints came from petroleum-based solventsthe compounds that caused paint fumes and required further solvents to clean up. Most manufactures have been able to create water-based products of a similar or better quality to replace their smelly, messy, oil-based predecessors.

These new paints can be applied over oil-based paints. Make sure the surface is well cleaned and dry before you paint. Sanding will make the new coat adhere better, as will a primer.

If you're preparing to paint, follow these steps.

Step 1. Choose the Gloss

Gloss is the amount of shine the paint has when it dries, ranging from flat (no gloss) to high gloss.

Flat to low-gloss finishes are the most popular paints and stains for siding and fences. Semi-gloss and eggshell finishes are popular for interior walls. Gloss paints work well on doors, railings and trim and on areas exposed to high traffic or abrasion. Gloss and semi-gloss finishes are tough and durable and are characterized by a sheen that results in a cool, crisp finish that reflects light.

Step 2. Choose the Paint Type

Paints are designed to be used on certain surfaces and to perform well under different conditions.

Latex Interior or Exterior Paint These water-based paints are easy to apply and clean up, low odour, quick drying and durable. They can be applied to partially moist surfaces. They're flexible and resist peeling and chalking. Second coats can be applied within two to four hours of the first coat. Available in many glosses and sheens. Ideal for interiors, siding, fences, stucco, masonry.

Enamel This term refers to the hardness of the paint. Its glossy finish is tough, durable, smooth and impact resistant, making it useful for outdoor surfaces and heavily used indoor areas. Enamel finishes are available for a wide variety of surfaces including metal, pipes, etc.

Enamel paints were commonly oil based in the past. The new versions are water-based alkyd or acrylic.

Wood Stains Paints cover the surface, but stains soak in and allow the natural texture of wood to show. Stains are popular for textured wood surfaces. Ideal for wood siding, shingles, shakes and fences.

  • Semi-transparent Stain Penetrates the surface of the wood to protect and colour while letting the natural grain and texture show. Ideal for new wood or over previous semi-transparent stained surfaces.
  • Solid Colour Stain Penetrates and cover the natural grain of wood but allows the natural texture of the wood to show. Use on new wood or previously stained surfaces.

Specialty Paints For decks, driveways, machinery, masonry, rusty surfaces. Be sure to choose the right type of paint. A specialty paint store will have people who can advise you.

Step 3. Choose Primers

Primers seal the surface and help form a tight bond between the topcoat and underlying surface material. Primers should be applied to surfaces that have never been painted and areas that are bare or have been patched. They're also helpful if you're painting a lighter colour over a darker one.

There are products that are considered two-in-one, serving the purpose of both a primer and paint

The two key factors in primer selection are adhesion to the surface and compatibility with the topcoat. The paint you choose will usually identify a recommended type of primer on the label.

Step 4. Finalize and Select Your Colours

Take colour chips home and look at them where they'll be used and under different lighting conditions. But better yet, get sample paint to test on an area to see if you like the colour. Many stores now offer tester-sized cans.

The paint companies also offer free online tools to help you visualize colour schemes before you even go to the store. Most let you upload photos of your home and then experiment with different colours. Try them out.

Step 5. Buy Your Tools and Materials

Make sure you buy the best quality tools that you can afford. Top-quality tools will save application time and achieve better results. Most jobs can be done with a few good tools including one or two premium brushes, a sturdy paint tray that can be attached to a ladder and one or two quality rollers. Check with your paint store to see what tools they recommend for use with the products you have purchased.

Finally, for exterior paint jobs, avoid painting in hot direct sunlight. The paint will dry too fast to adhere or be absorbed by the surface you're painting.

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